Many deserving potential awardees were snubbed by the Nobel committee. But this takes the cake.
Every October, the Nobel foundation awards prizes celebrating the greatest advances in numerous scientific fields.
With a maximum of three winners per prize, many of history’s most deserving candidates have gone unrewarded.
However, the greatest injustices occurred when the scientists behind the most worthy contributions were snubbed.
Theoretical developments hold immense scientific importance, but only measured observables can confirm, validate, or refute a theory.
By the 1950s, physicists were probing the fundamental properties of the particles composing our Universe.
Many expected that three symmetries:
- C-symmetry (swapping particles for antiparticles),
- P-symmetry (mirror-reflecting your system), and
- T-symmetry (time-reversing your system),
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would always be conserved.
But two theorists — Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang — suspected that mirror symmetry might be violated by the weak interactions.
In 1956, scientist Chien-Shiung Wu put that idea to the experimental test.
By observing the radioactive decay (beta decay, a weak interaction), she showed that this process was intrinsically chiral.
In 1957, Lee and Yang were awarded the physics Nobel; Wu was omitted entirely.
Even today, only three women physicists — Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018) — have ever won Nobel Prizes.
Mostly Mute Monday tells a scientific story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.